Gambling Commission to Enforce New Age Verification Rules for Online Gambling

United Kingdom - On February 7, 2019, the UK Gambling Commission announced new rules governing online gambling. These new rules just took effect on Tuesday, May 7th. As a result, online gambling companies are now required to verify the identity of individuals before letting them deposit funds into their accounts on the site, or to spend money on any of the gambling options offered on their website.

These new rules are meant to help prevent underage gambling and to make online gambling more fair to operators and players alike. Additionally, these rules are also aimed at creating a safer playing field by helping operators detect criminal activity early in the process and possibly identify those who make an attempt to gamble while they are self-excluded. The existing licence conditions and codes of practice will also be amended to reflect these rule updates.

Before these rules were enforced, online gambling businesses were given 72 hours to conduct verification checks. While the checks were being made, customers could deposit funds and start gambling, but they were not allowed to withdraw their winnings until verification was completed. If the operator finds out that the player was underage, his original stake will have to be returned and he will not get any of his winnings.

With the new rules in place, online gambling companies are now required to do the following in terms of verifying identification:

  1. Verify the customer’s name, address, and date of birth at the very least before allowing them to gamble on the site
  2. Promptly ask for additional information when necessary
  3. Inform new customers, prior to letting them deposit funds, about what kinds of identification documents or information they may have to provide as well as the circumstances under which this information may be required and how the customer should provide it to the licensee
  4. Take the necessary steps to ensure that all customer information in their files are kept accurate

One concern raised by online gambling operators is that they may not have been given enough time to make adjustments to their existing verification processes. Industry analyst Warwick Bartlett pointed out that while the new rules are “fair and reasonable”, it is inevitable that the industry will face difficulties in the initial implementation period. Sign-ups might be slower during the first months of implementation, and this might cause some friction with customers getting impatient with the sign-up process.

The new rules apply to all online lotteries as well as remote betting and gaming operators. It even precludes individuals from accessing free-to-play gambling games until verification has been made. This is because the Commission believes that while free-to-play games are not gambling per se, there is no reason why children should have access to them.

These new rules were adopted following an open consultation, and the details can be found in the Commission’s website. In relation to this, the Commission will also be calling for a further consultation to provide guidance to operators on how they should interact with customers who might be experiencing gambling-related harm. They will also be looking into the use of gambling-blocking software during this next phase of consultations.